I was laid off recently. It was something that I both wanted – and welcomed. But now that it’s here, I’m struggling a bit.
When you know that a major change is on the horizon that’s going to upend your daily routines – a move, a break-up, an illness, leaving your job – it’s tempting to treat that event like the proverbial jumping off a precipice: there is a before and an after. And it’s knife-edged. So you throw all of your energy into the *before* – in my case, finishing all those last minute tasks at work…saving your files….going out for (lots of!) drinks with colleagues – and consciously put aside thinking about what comes next.
That’s all normal. After all, change is scary. It’s much easier to make yourself insanely busy with the build-up to the change than to contemplate the abyss of the after. But when the other side of that precipice finally arrives – when “later” becomes “now” – you suddenly discover that you have all this time on your hands and no earthly idea what to do with it. (And yes, for the record, I did take a three-week vacation!)
It isn’t easy to make that adjustment. Here are five strategies that can help you ease into being laid off and make that time both fun and productive:
1. Tackle a big project on your To Do list. It doesn’t have to be something onerous or unpleasant. Pick something that you’ve been wanting to do fora while, but simply haven’t had time for. And then take control of that one thing. I’m finally working my way through Julia Cameron’s brilliant book The Artist’s Way – a 12 week course (I’m doing the book version) that helps you unlock your creativity. I’ve been wanting to tackle this project for at least two years. And guess what? It not only provides a structure for my mornings, I’m also having a fantastic time unleashing my creative self.
2. Exercise. A lot. We all know that exercise is great for all sorts of things including helping us to sleep better, cope with chronic disease and fend off depression. And that’s especially true for older adults. But it’s not just about exercising more regularly. This is can also be a time to experiment. I’ve been swimming for a couple of years now and I’m still doing regularly during this transition. But I’m also taking advantage of my membership at my local gym to try out all manner of new classes: Restorative Fitness…Box Fit…Ballet! Trying something new can be exhilarating as well as a great learning experience.
3. Read. A lot. I’ve long been a fan of reading long books in the summer when you have a bit more daylight and (hopefully!) a bit more time. This summer’s list has included the entire set of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels as well as anything and everything by Donna Tartt. For me, reading fiction expands my feel for voice and style and lets me bring that to my own writing. But it can do more than that. Reading can unlock the wisdom of others and help you to pursue your dreams.
4. Relax. Obvs, right? Even if you’re using some of these techniques to try and structure your down time, the void in your normal routine can be stressful. I’ve long extolled the virtues of mindfulness in the morning. But lately I’ve been experimenting with muscle relaxation exercises at night, to try and relax myself before I go to sleep so that I clench my teeth less and treat sleep less as a new playground for my anxiety and more as a respite from it.
How about you? Have you ever had a block of “down time” – whether due to getting laid off or something else that changed in your life – and how did you cope?